Do MTB Shorts Have Padding? (Is It Necessary?)

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Did you know that mountain bikes are the most popular bicycle in the US? Over 40 million Americans participate in mountain biking every year.

We love mountain biking because it offers a fun and thrilling way to stay fit. Nothing beats the adrenaline and rush of riding through rough terrains while enjoying the view of nature.

That said, if you’re new to the sport, you might be wondering about proper attire and protective gear. Most newbies would ask about mountain biking shorts and if it has built-in padding.

Well, do MTB shorts have padding? Keep reading, and let’s answer that for you.

Mountain Biking Shorts and Padding

Long story short, most modern mountain biking shorts or bibs do have a built-in padding called a “chamois.” It’s made of cushioning foam or gel sewn into the crotch area of a trail biking short.

Other varieties of MTB shorts, however, are knee-length, loose shorts that don’t include padding. Their intended purpose is to balance breathability and functionality.

Bike short paddings come in different sizes, shapes, colors, and designs, though they all serve the same purpose. They protect sensitive areas from pressure and friction while riding.

In addition, they support your bone structure as you paddle through rocky terrains. So, having the right chamois for your shorts is an excellent way to avoid soreness.

Some padding even offers antibacterial technology that prevents skin irritation—so you don’t have to worry about itchy butts after hours of trail biking.

If you have the baggy version of biking shorts, you should purchase cycling underwear with padding for protection. Some brands also offer separate liners to go with the shorts.

Types of Mountain Biking Shorts

There are several brands of biking shorts you can choose from depending on your preference and bike style. Below are the two most common mountain biking shorts you can get.

1.   Lycra Biking Shorts

Lycra shorts for mountain biking

If you’re the type to ride on rough and smooth terrains, you might want something you can use for both occasions. Lycra shorts are bibs made from a highly elastic spandex fabric.

This type of shorts typically comes with a jersey or shirt made from the same material. They’re tight-fitting, and we commonly see them worn by road bikers and cross-country racers.

The advantage of Lycra shorts is that they help improve aerodynamics and reduce drag, which is an issue for loose cycling apparel. They also keep the rider cool as they absorb sweat.

One issue we found with Lycra cycling shorts is the thin material that doesn’t offer much protection to the skin. Trail biking usually involves going through tight spaces with sharp branches or thorned grasses, so you might appreciate a thicker alternative.

2.   Traditional Mountain Biking Shorts

Baggy mountain bike shorts

Traditional biking shorts are “baggy” versions of cycling bibs. They’re thicker and more durable than Lycra, which makes them ideal for mountain biking through overgrown trails.

Depending on your preference, you can choose between shorts with built-in padding (all in one) and shorts with separate liners.

Most people prefer bike shorts with separate padded liners because it gives them more options when riding. You can switch between different types of padding depending on your needs.

The best advantage of these MTB shorts is their breathability. Mountain biking is a sweaty sport, so the additional breeze is an excellent way to keep your body cool.

On top of breathability, the design of these shorts doesn’t stand out too much. You can wear them for a quick lunch after the trail ride, and you won’t worry about looking out of place.

I personally love this type of bike shorts because they usually have pockets—and deep ones too! You can put your keys, phones, maps, or tools inside without worrying about losing them.

Are Padded MTB Shorts Necessary?

While there’s no law requiring anyone to wear padded shorts while mountain biking, there are a lot of benefits to it. Plus, the nature of the sport does require additional protection.

Here are some of the advantages of wearing padded shorts while trail riding:

1.   It Alleviates Pressure

As you pedal through the trail, your shifting weight will put pressure on your bones, specifically your perineum. After a few hours of riding, you’ll quickly realize your crotch needs protection.

The friction from the movements will also cause several issues. If you don’t wear padding, the seam line of your shorts will rub directly against your skin and can cause irritation and chafing.

2.   It Absorbs Moisture

Have you tried riding a bike while your shorts are drenched with sweat? We’re telling you, it’s extremely uncomfortable, and the friction will double, which can cause saddle burns.

The paddings of MTB shorts are made up of foam or gel with different densities. Manufacturers typically design the top layers to absorb sweat and moisture.

That said, the padding on your bike shorts can help prevent those uncomfortable issues. So, you can ride without worrying about sweat pooling on your thigh and nether areas.

3.   It Reduces Vibration

People consider mountain biking an extreme sport for the stress it puts on your whole body. It also comes with real risks because of the location where it takes place.

While riding through rough, rocky terrains, you’ll constantly experience road shock. As your tires roll over the uneven surface, they’ll send vibrations to the bike frame and your body.

Paddings are soft materials, so they’re helpful with dispersing these shocks. They absorb the vibration that otherwise will cause pain and discomfort throughout your ride.

Disadvantages of Wearing MTB Shorts with Padding

Now that you know the benefits of MTB shorts padding, are there any disadvantages to them? If you’re new to mountain biking, here are some drawbacks to wearing chamois:

1.   Price

One potential drawback that mountain bikers complain about is the price of padding. High-quality padding, especially the gel variety, can be pricey.

However, comparing the benefits with their cost, we’ll say they’re worth the investment. Though, you also need to consider your needs when purchasing MTB shorts.

If you’re planning on riding frequently and for long distances, we recommend you invest in dual-density gel chamois. Otherwise, the cheaper foam paddings will do.

2.   Comfort

Another disadvantage you may encounter is the padding’s comfort. If you’re new to this sport, wearing shorts with chamois can be uncomfortable.

In addition, you need to wear them without underwear to enhance breathability. Underwear hinders the moisture-wicking function of padding and can restrict your movements.

That said, most riders get used to wearing MTB shorts with padding after a few days on the saddle. You only need to look for the padding that suits your physical attributes and preference.

How to Choose the Right Mountain Biking Shorts

Mountain biking shorts come in several designs and chamois. So, we recommend you choose the bibs with padding that fits your pelvic shape and riding style.

If you’re gearing for Lycra shorts, look for sizes that fit snugly but are still comfortable to move around. Anything too tight causes more friction and can cut circulation to your legs. If you’re into traditional, loose MTB shorts, choose brands with the most durable material. It’s also better to pick a design with switchable chamois so you can ride comfortably with the padding of your choice.

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Paul Tuthill
Growing up in Scotland, Paul developed a love for the outdoors and a desire for adventure from an early age.